For the purpose of contributing to a sustained discussion regarding the state of education in El Salvador, I would like to make a concrete proposal. My proposal is based on seven years of experience with the Amún Shéa Center for Integrated Development, in northern Morazán.
Amún Shéa is a proven educational option existing in El Salvador, Central America and is one of many that exist around the globe.
In a world with such diversity it becomes necessary to question whether the uniformity sought by a national education program is valid today. My premise is that the pace of learning, as well as interest and motivation, has a highly individualistic component, and is very unlikely to be fully developed through curricular and methodological standardization.
My proposal is aimed toward “liberation of education.” To do this academic standards are raised and pathways to learning are expanded, clearly establishing the goal of education and assessment requirements, but leaving freedom of choice for the individual regarding the route to reaching that goal.
It would also require establishing a committee or group of experts detached from the educational institutions themselves. Following the criterion of a separation between judge and jury, this commission would independently define standardized criteria of excellence, setting clear goals for each specialty and establishing mechanisms to evaluate those aspiring to graduate.
Currently schools and universities bestow titles and diplomas on their own students, with a variety of criterion and often with dubious results. With this new procedure, the effectiveness or validity of a center or education program would be determined only by the quality of graduate it produces, leaving behind the superfluous discussion on approaches, practices or the role of teachers.
In addition to technical and academic skills, educational goals would respond with a beneficial individual molding of citizens capable of bringing El Salvador out of its backwardness and current state of violence. I do not propose replacing the public system, but to enrich it with agile and independent alternatives, more adaptable to local needs and opportunities.
Educational liberation, as I see it, is the easing of curricular and methodological uniformity and bureaucratic obstacles that do not directly contribute to the learning process. In this scenario, government would focus on encouraging and supporting alternative programs that respond to the diversity of interests and passions of the student population, as well as meeting the genuine demand for local skilled labor and technical and professional skills.
Far from being an idealistic approach, this proposal responds to the reality of an unequal distribution of resources and opportunities based on geography and the social background of students. By contrast, the traditional education system is “idealistic” in that it assumes equality throughout the country that, despite being small in territory, is highly diverse. If we can free ourselves from rigid strategies we could level the playing field for all players. We have found that in the absence of resources, creative solutions to problems tend to blossom and thrive.
Those of us from the Pink Floyd generation remember that their classic “Another Brick in the Wall” invited us to change the world. The challenge was not limited to changing the color of the bricks or replacing them with a different material, but to deliver us once and for all from the enslaving uniformity that dominates the current notion of education.
This blog appeared first as a article in spanish in the Jan. 20 edition of the Prensa Grafica in El Salvador. Go here to see the original article.